Archive for the ‘Foreign Minister’ Category

US to send nuclear mission to India

October 16, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States has said it would send a mission to India in December to explore business opportunities following a landmark pact to open up sales of civilian nuclear technology to the country.
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (left) shakes hands ... 
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (left) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after signing the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in Washington, DC on October 10. The United States has said it would send a mission to India in December to explore business opportunities following a landmark pact to open up sales of civilian nuclear technology to the country.(AFP/File/Kris Connor)

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee signed the agreement last week that lifted a three-decade ban on US-Indian civilian nuclear trade imposed after India’s first nuclear test in 1974.

“I’m pleased to announce that the Commerce Department has certified the US-India Business Council for a civil nuclear trade mission to India this coming December,” US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrrez said Wednesday.

Council President Ron Somers has projected 150 billion dollars worth of business between US and Indian companies over the next 30 years following the deal, which offers India access to US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for allowing UN inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities.

US-India bilateral trade in 2007 was nearly 42 billion dollars, up 55 percent from 2005, Gutierrez said at a council meeting Wednesday aimed at tapping business opportunities in India‘s “clean energy” market.

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Russia Says It Will Be Allowed To Monitor U.S. Missile Defense Systems

March 20, 2008

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published in the daily “Izvestia” on March 20 that the United States recently offered Russia “confidence-building measures” that will enable Russian monitors and monitoring equipment to determine that the proposed missile-defense system is not directed against Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, seen here in February ... 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
(AFP/File/Hrvoje Polan)
Lavrov added that “we have managed to make Americans acknowledge that our concerns are not unfounded…. In such [military systems], what matters is the potential and not just the intentions.” He did not say whether the proposal is enough to end Russian opposition to missile defense.
Under the U.S. proposals brought to Moscow by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week, Russia reportedly will be able to use monitoring equipment and occasional visits by monitoring officials at the proposed radar site in the Czech Republic and at the interceptor base in Poland.

Germany’s “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” reported on March 20 that Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek suggested recently that the U.S. proposal is acceptable to Prague because it does not involve a permanent Russian military presence on Czech territory.

The daily also cited remarks by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to the effect that the proposal is worthwhile if it makes Russia feel more secure. Critics charge that Moscow knows that missile defense is no threat, but uses the issue to bully its neighbors, try to split NATO, and obtain concessions from Washington on other issues.

Iraqi FM against quick US troop pullout

March 18, 2008
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s foreign minister said Tuesday the risks of civil war have been averted after five years of “tears and blood.” But he warned an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops would wipe away the security gains and other achievements and have disastrous consequences.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari gestures during an interview ...
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari gestures during an interview with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Tuesday, March 18, 2008. Zebari said Tuesday he believes his country has averted a civil war after five years of ‘tears and blood’ but warned an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops would be ‘disastrous.’
(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed )

With the war entering its sixth year, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari acknowledged mistakes by all sides. But he insisted that Iraqis have made remarkable progress despite the violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,000 U.S. troops.

Zebari, a Kurd who spent years opposing Saddam Hussein in exile, said the Iraqis had cautioned that overthrowing the dictator would be “the easiest part” but “the day after would be far more difficult unless there was some planning, some preparation … and some real participation by the Iraqi leaders.”

“Mistakes were made by all, by the American military, by the British, by the coalition, by us, but this is water under the bridge now,” he told The Associated Press in an interview in an ornate reception room at the Foreign Ministry building in central Baghdad.

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Lavrov says Russia and the US still have differences over missile defense

March 18, 2008

March 18, ,2008

Moscow (AP) — Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia and the U.S. still disagree over a missile shield for central Europe, while U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the system “would not constitute a threat” to Moscow.

After talks with Gates and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lavrov told a news conference that Moscow still sees a “risk” to Russia in the U.S. plans to deploy missile defense facilities in central Europe.

But both Lavrov and Rice voiced confidence that Washington and Moscow can continue to work constructively on this and a wide array of issues.

“When we have differences, we can talk about them in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” Rice said, backing Lavrov’s belief that the two sides disagree about the positioning of the missile defense system.

Gates, joining Lavrov and Rice at a news conference, said that “we’ve leaned very far forward in this to provide assurance” that the system is not a threat.

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Afghanistan, Missile Defense To Dominate Munich’s Annual Security Conference

February 8, 2008

February 8, 2008

BERLIN (AFP)–A raging Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe were set to send the sparks flying at the annual Munich security conference this weekend.

But fresh from a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Lithuania, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was expected to make little headway in pressing Washington’s aims, particularly when it comes to Afghanistan, experts and diplomats believe.

“Afghanistan is going to be the centerpiece of the conference,” said Daniel Korski from the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“America will continue to make the point for more burden sharing and more troops…There will be a continuation of the rhetoric and the Americans will bring out the bogeyman of NATO’s failure.”

But Gates is likely to draw a blank, Korski added: “Spain, Germany, France and Italy will not be able to provide the reinforcements requested.”

Commanders in Afghanistan have been calling for around 7,500 extra troops for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. ISAF currently comprises 42,000 troops from 39 countries.

In fierce fighting more than 6,000 people, including nearly 220 international soldiers, were killed there last year – the most since the U.S.-led toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The U.S. wants Germany, France, Spain and Italy not only to boost troop numbers but also to aid U.S., U.K., Dutch, and Canadian forces fighting a resurgent Taliban in the south of the country.

Germany for instance leads ISAF in the relatively calm north of Afghanistan but with elections looming in 2009 and public support for Berlin’s six year-old Afghan mission slipping, it is wary of becoming further enmeshed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government stresses instead the reconstruction role of its 3,200 troops, and last week Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung rejected a sharply-worded request by Gates for more help in the south.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and the Prime Minister ...
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, right, review the honour guard at the Berlin Chancellery on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008.
(AP Photo/Fritz Reiss) 

Jung says he will defend this position in Munich.

Germany’s refusal means other countries are also unlikely to step up to the plate, and this in turn could see the existing alliance unravel.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has threatened to withdraw his country’s 2,500 troops unless NATO provides reinforcements.

Since 2002, 78 Canadian soldiers and a senior diplomat have died in roadside bombings and in fighting. Next month sees a crunch vote in Ottawa on whether to extend Canada’s combat mission beyond February 2009.

Gates is also unlikely to get an easy ride over sausages and beer in Munich when it comes to Washington’s plans to site parts of a missile defense shield in eastern Europe.

The 10 planned interceptor missile sites in Poland and associated radar stations in the Czech Republic, which the U.S. wants operational by 2012, are designed, Washington says, to intercept projectiles fired from “rogue states” like Iran.

But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is expected to use his appearance in Munich to hammer home Moscow’s strong dislike for the plans, since the installations will be placed on what it sees as its doorstep.
Sergei Ivanov
Sergei Borisovich Ivanov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used a Polish newspaper interview on Thursday to accuse Washington of imperialism and seeking to encircle Russia with the project.

“When you look at a map, it becomes clear that everything is concentrated around our borders,” he told Gazeta Wyborcza.

The annual security conference in the Bavarian capital will bring together around 250 delegates from 50 countries including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and Mohamed El Baradei, head of the U.N. atomic agency.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Jakob Gijsbert “Jaap” de Hoop Scheffer

Taiwan regrets Rice comments on U.N. referendum

December 23, 2007

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan said on Saturday it regretted U.S. comments criticizing the island’s planned referendum on U.N. membership and hinted that Washington should not to give in to pressure from China on the matter.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice holds a news conference ...
U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice

We feel sorry about the development,” said Taiwan Foreign Minister James Huang after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Taiwan’s referendum to apply to the United Nations under the name “Taiwan” was provocative and unhelpful.

“Although China has made a lot of efforts and put a lot of pressure on the U.S., we still hope the U.S. side will see this matter in a calm and collected way,” Huang said.

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Vietnam party chief heads to North Korea

October 16, 2007

By Frank Zeller HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam’s Communist Party chief on Tuesday left for a three-day visit to North Korea as state media stressed Hanoi‘s desire to support peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula.

Nong Duc Manh was joined by Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, who is also deputy prime minister, on the visit at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, the head of the Korean Workers’ Party.

Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il

Vietnam — which is expected to be voted onto the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member later Tuesday — maintains relations with both Pyongyang, a communist ally, and Seoul, a major trade partner and investor.

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Putin Digs In

October 14, 2007

Vladimir Putin of Russia boasts of a resurgent Russia and scolds the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense. But his game is a potentially dangerous one.

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
October 15, 2007

For the last several years, gradually at first but at an accelerating tempo, Russia has reasserted itself in a revision of its Cold War ways. Once hopeful of a new Russia willing and able to cooperate more readily and effectively with the rest of the world community in fighting terrorism, dealing with nations like Iran and North Korea, and developing missile defenses; the U.S., NATO allies and others began to see a new more cantankerous Russia.

Some call this the “resurgent Russia.” We call it the recidivist Russia.

The driving force in all of this is President Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Владимир Владимирович Путин
Vladimir Putin

Mr. Putin’s reluctance to join further with the West on issues such as fighting terrorism and fostering democracy, especially among the former Soviet Republics, has turned into intransigence.

The differences between Putin, the West, and the United States especially, were never more starkly on display than they were on October 12, 2007. In an effort to resolve differences between the U.S. and Russia, the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense waited to meet with Mr. Putin before they met with their Russian counterparts.

They waited. And waited.

In what looked like an intentional display of power, some say President Putin made his guests wait for something like 40 minutes.

Then Mr. Putin launched upon a derisive criticism of the U.S. and especially the missile defense effort to include the Czech Republic and Poland.

Now Mr. Putin insists, unless the U.S. missile defense plan is scrapped or vastly revised, Russia will withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and deploy medium range nuclear armed ballistic missiles facing Europe. He has already walked away from the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which limited concentrations of troops and tanks, as an expression of anger at US plans to site a single radar station in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Moscow would be forced to take measures to “neutralize” the missile defense shield if it is built as planned.

It seems Mr. Putin will attempt to use European fear and public opinion plus his vast oil wealth as the levers of power to convince a weakened U.S. president to relent on missile defense.

As soon as Rice and Gates left Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow regarded the joint Japan-U.S. missile defense effort as an “object of concern.”

So it isn’t just the Poland-Czech Republic plan that bothers the Russians – it is anything labeled missile defense.

Recall also that Russia and China conducted their first ever joint military training exercise under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). China and Russia have united to block U.S. and U.K. proposed sanctions against President Ahmadinejad and Iran over its nuclear program. And Russia and China have even blocked sanctions against Myanmar.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters on the way home from Russia: “My own view is that the Europeans are beginning to wonder what the Russians are all about.”

Gates continued, “And I think it would be frankly harmful to Russia’s interests in Europe to unilaterally suspend or withdraw from this treaty [the INF], in terms of the sense of security and reassurance in Europe of the predictability of the future.”

U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan commands the European Command and he wants to curtail plans to reduce U.S. forces in Europe. He said: “In this era of persistent conflict, we have some fault lines that are there in the European Command (area of responsibility) that we have to pay attention to. We don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of a resurgent Russia.”

Finally, the day after the dressing down by President Putin, U.S. Secretary of State Rice said:
“In any country, if you don’t have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development.”

She added, “I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma.”

What’s next? We’ll have to wait and see….

Putin Says Nyet
Cold War Redux
Kremlinology 101 Redux

Obstacles stall Rice’s Mideast diplomacy

October 14, 2007

By Matthew Lee, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opened an intense round of Mideast shuttle diplomacy Sunday, struggling to bring Israelis and Palestinians close enough to make a planned U.S.-hosted peace conference worthwhile.

The two sides are at bitter odds over an outline of a peace agreement that would be presented at next month’s conference, and Rice sought to lower expectations her mission would finalize preparations for the gathering.

Underscoring her less-than-optimistic assessment, Israeli and Palestinians traded shots about the other’s commitment to peace ….

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Putin: Russia wants medium-range missiles

October 13, 2007

By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
The Telegraph (UK)
October 13, 2007

President Vladimir Putin has dealt a fresh blow to the West’s security guarantees when he raised the possibility that Russia could build medium-range nuclear weapons capable of hitting Europe.

The Russian leader delivered his warning during a tetchy meeting with Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, and Robert Gates, the American defence secretary, who were in Moscow hoping to end an impasse over Washington’s plans to erect an anti-missile shield on former Warsaw Pact territory.

But the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Moscow would be forced to take measures to “neutralize” the shield if it is built as planned.

Mr Putin has already said that Russia would target its nuclear arsenal at Europe for the first time since the Cold War if the shield is not moved from its proposed locations in Poland and the Czech Republic.

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